Academic journal article Scandinavian Studies

Becoming the Object of One's Own Affection: Christian Kampmann's Fornemmelser

Academic journal article Scandinavian Studies

Becoming the Object of One's Own Affection: Christian Kampmann's Fornemmelser

Article excerpt

Personligheden er en Synthese af Mulighed og Nodvendighed. (Kierkegaard, Sygdommen til Doden 97)

ILLUSTRATING A POINT about self-knowledge in Sygdommen til Doden (1849; The Sickness Unto Death, 1968), Kierkegaard provides this epigrammatic tale:

   Man fortoller om en Bondemand, som barbenet var kommet til
   Hovedstaden, og det havde faaet saa mange Skillinger, at han kunde
   kjobe sig et Par Stromper og Skoe, og deg beholdt saa Meget
   tilovers, at han kunde drikke sig fuld--man fortoller, at han, som
   han beruset vilde til at finde hjem, blev liggende midt paa
   Landeveien og faldt i Sovn. Saa kom der en Vogn kjorende, og
   Kudsken raabte ham an, at han skulde flytte sig, ellers kjorte han
   over hans Been. Den fulde Bonde vaagnede, saa derpaa til sine Been,
   og da han paa Grund af Stromper og Skoe ikke kjendte dem, sagde
   han: kjor han kun, det er ikke mine Been. (109-10)

   It is related of a peasant who came [barefooted] to the Capital,
   and had made so much money that he could buy himself a pair of
   shoes and stockings and still bad enough left over to get drunk
   on--it is related that as he was trying in his drunken state to
   find his way home he lay down in the middle of the highway and fell
   asleep. Then along came a wagon, and the driver shouted to him to
   move or he would run over his legs. Then the drunken peasant awoke,
   looked at his legs, and since by reason of the shoes and stockings,
   he didn't recognize them, he said to the driver, "Drive on, they
   are not my legs" (187)

Kierkegaard's wry parable emphasizes not only the importance he places on knowing oneself bur also illustrates the dangerous consequences of impeded self-awareness. Lost in the altered consciousness of his drunken stare and relying solely on the "reason" of his perceptions--the unrecognizable shoes and stockings--the peasant not only places himself in harm's way but also exhibits an insensitivity to the plight of others. Most telling in Kierkegaard's metaphoric tale is the lack of culpability placed on the wagon driver. To Kierkegaard the fact that the world is cruel and insensitive is a given: by failing to know ourselves beyond the material, surface level, we place ourselves in danger by not recognizing the impending threats of existence. Awareness of the world around one begins in knowing that one has a self.

Among the myriad entries in the literature of self-awareness, Christian Kampmann's Fornemmelser (1977; Feelings) proffers one of the world's first brutally honest novels of sexual awakening. Enveloped in colloquial and personable prose, the novel--the first in a trilogy that continues with Videre Trods Alt (1979; Further Despite Everything) and I Glimt (1980; In Glimpses)--relates Kampmann's youthful and painful recognition and acceptance of his bisexual nature. By the time Fornemmelser was published, Kampmann, a pre-eminent figure in the ny-realisme movement, was one of Denmark's most well-established and respected authors. He had already published three sets of short stories and ten novels, including his hugely popular tetralogy chronicling three decades in the lives of the upper-class Gregersen family.

With Fornemmelser, however, Kampmann turned his psychologically astute and journalistic eye on himself and his own difficult journey of acceptance. Two years before the novel's publication, Kampmann had divorced his wife and publicly announced (in both the press and on television) his bisexuality; at this time he also began to take an active role in Denmark's Bossernes Befrielsesfront (Gay Liberation Front). His coming out became a media event: Danish newspaper headlines announced Kampmann's declaration of sexual independence. From 1975 until 1978 Kampmann also edited and wrote for the politically charged periodical Seksualpolitik. Socially and artistically Kampmann had accepted the responsibility that ensued from his pronouncement. …

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